***TO IMPROVE MYSELF IN MASONRY***
The following was taken from the Short Talk Bulletin article by S, Brent Morris, who some will remember from his being guest speaker at Grand Lodge.
Ritual Development in the United States
The spread of Freemasonry in the United States was supported by itinerant Masonic lecturers, sometimes appointed by Grand Lodge but often operating as independent entrepreneurs. They taught Craft ritual based on William Preston’s lectures as rearranged and edited by Thomas Smith Webb of Mass, which is the basis of the ritual in nearly all American Grand Lodges.
“The Grand Lecturer of New York informs us notwithstanding all this discussion, that he found, during the last year no less than five different systems of work and lectures existing in that State, and that four of them prevailed in a single lodge—so that until labor began, the brethren did not know which particular system was to be the order of the evening.” (from the address of Philip C. Tucker, GM of Vt. 1859)
Masonic ritual came to the United States from many sources: principally England, Scotland, Ireland, but also France and Germany, to name but a few. There was no ritual guidance for American lodges from their mother Grand Lodges and certainly none in the colonies. Lodges had little choice but to rely on oral tradition and printed expose`s before the appearance of William Preston’s illustrations of Masonry in 1772. Even then, there wasn’t much help with the details of conferring the degrees of opening and closing a lodge, only lots of lectures.
The best idea of the ritual used in American lodges before 1826 comes from ritual expose`s. During the ninety-six hears from Benjamin Franklin’s publication of ‘The Mystery of Free-Masonry’ in 1730 to William Morgan’s abduction and disappearance in 1826, only eight Masonic ritual expose`s were published in America.
1730 – The Mystery of Freemasonry (Franklin’s reprint of the London Daily Journal expose)
1749/50 – Masonry Dissected by Prichard
1768 – Hiram: Or the Grand Master-key
1774 – Jachin and Boaz (twenty eight editions between
1774 and 1826)
1812 – Recuel Precieux de la Maconneri Adonhiramite
1812 – 4eme Grade sous le Titre de Maitre-Parafaut
1812 - The Freemason’s Instructor
1822 – The Masonic Tablet by Daniel Parker.
Jachin and Boaz, representing the ritual practices of both the Moderns and Ancients was the most popular. Parker’s, The Masonic tablet , even had a second edition. Arturo de Hoyos, noted ritual scholar, explained its importance to American Masonic ritual.
“Prior to the publication of Morgan’s work, Jachin and Boaz was the most important expose` published on American soil, and greatly aided ritual uniformity." In May 1828, Solomon Southwick, (editor of The National Observer) stated that Thomas Smith Webb, the ‘father’ of American Craft ritual, held a copy of Jachin and Boaz in his hands while teaching him and other young Masons their work.
Webb was born in Boston in 1771 and died in Ohio in 1819. He became a Master Mason 24 Dec. 1790 in Rising Sun Lodge #5 of Keene, NH. He established a printing business in Albany, NY and became friends with John Hammer, an Englishman, who taught him the lectures of William Preston.
Hammer is said to have been a member of the Lodge of Antiquity in London and, if so, surely was familiar with Preston and his lectures.
Webb took Preston’s 1792 Illustrations of Masonry, retained sixty-four pages of Preston’s work intact, word for word, cut out a few minor items and rearranged others, and published it in 1797 under the title Freemason’s Monitor or Illustrations of Freemasonry.
The concepts of intellectual property and plagiarism were not well developed in in 1797 but Webb remarkably acknowledged his debt to Preston in his preface. ‘The observations upon the first three degrees are principally taken from Preston’s ‘Illustrations of Masonry,’ with some necessary alterations.’ Webb’s Monitor contained the ‘remarks’ and ‘observations’ on the degrees conferred in American Royal Arch Chapters; Master Mark Mason, Past Master, Knights Templar, Knights of Malta, and the Ineffable Degrees, 4 to 14, plus a ‘Sketch of the History of Masonry in America.’ Altogether it was a remarkable volume and went through eighteen editions (four in Spanish) from 1797 to 1826.
More remarkable than his Monitor, however, was Webb’s private and unpublished accomplishment: he organized, regularized, and systematized American Masonic ritual. Using Jachin and Boaz, Preston’s Illustrations of Masonry, and John Hammer’s guidance, so everyone assumes, Webb produced what could be called the ‘American Standard Work’. American Grand Lodges at that time persistently sought uniformity of work in their ritual—if only they could discover what the ‘true original’ was. By adapting Preston’s lectures to the widely used template of Jachin and Boaz, Webb produced impressive, consistent ceremonies that became immensely popular. He may not have found the true original rituals of Masonry, but his work was so much better than anything else available that all American Grand Lodges (except Penn.) adopted it and stopped searching.
Note: The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Vermont makes a point that the ritual to be used in this state is the Webb ritual, as brought back from Mass. by John Barney who studied it under Gleason, Webb’s pupil. John Barney was an official Grand Lecturer for Vt.